Hospitals should have designated areas for victims of domestic violence

A top government official has recommended hospitals have a designated area for victims of domestic violence and protocols for health practitioners to follow when attending to such cases.

The Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development Chief Executive Officer, Afamasaga Faauiga Palepua Mulitalo, told Samoa Observer that her office and other relevant Government agencies should work together to address the absence of such facilities in hospitals, and empower hospital staff by establishing procedures to ensure victims have immediate access to treatment and support services.

“The best people to get information for that is the Health Department but it’s something that we really need to see happening,” she said. 

“These are things we are trying to work together on with different agencies to make sure that we put in place, systems and processes so victims of violence are properly handled.”

“Whoever is responsible as the first point of contact (whether its Health, whether its Police, whether it’s us here at the Ministry or Justice), we should have systems in place to make sure victims are comfortable to go to that person, unit or section.”

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Afamasaga said providing a safe and supportive environment at a hospital is key to women overcoming the shame and fear of being victims of domestic violence.

“It’s something that we really want to see in the hospital, that there is a place that victims of violence are comfortable to go directly to, when they need medical care. Sometimes our women feel reluctant to go to the hospital, if they feel they are being abused by their partners, so I guess it’s something that we need to make sure that women feel comfortable enough, to seek help and get treated if they are being abused.”

Getting treated in a hospital with other sick members of the public can be a disincentive to the bid by authorities to address domestic violence in Samoa, added Afamasaga.

“In order to make that happen, there should be a place in the hospital that they go to, otherwise if they go through the same processes as other patients, they might feel ashamed and feel reluctant to go and decide to stay away and also train doctors and nurses who will be specifically assigned for that”

Afamasaga believes the issue can be tackled through proper dialogue between the relevant Ministries. 

“I don’t see as something that’s hard to do. It’s a matter of us talking with medical practitioners and considering our resources and whether we have enough doctors, nurses, who are well trained in the area.”

“It involves confidentiality to make sure there is protection for these women. As I said, they (Health department) would be the best people to ask if they have a system in place at the hospital to cater for women and victims of family violence. 

But right now, I think they are just going through the same process, as if they are just a regular patient going through the outpatient and emergency unit, if it’s serious,” she added.

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